“The Calico Solar Project is one of several projects in the pipeline that will help California and this nation build a renewable energy economy,” Secretary Salazar said in signing the Record of Decision. “With each project, we are helping to create new jobs for American workers, reduce carbon emissions, promote energy independence and strengthen our national security."
Calico joins a host of landmark announcements from Interior in recent weeks as part of the Administration’s effort to encourage a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewable energy on public lands. Earlier this month, the Secretary approved the first four renewable energy projects on public lands, three in California and one in Nevada, respectively: Imperial Valley Solar Project, Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and Silver State North Solar Project. Including the Calico project, the approved solar projects could generate over 1,800 megawatts of renewable energy, or enough to power 550,000 to 1.4 million homes. Similar to the already-approved Imperial Valley Solar Project, also proposed by Tessera Solar, the Calico Solar Project will use Stirling Energy System’s SunCatcher technology.
The Secretary’s decision today authorizes Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer Tessera Solar a right-of-way grant to use these public lands for 30 years if all rents and other conditions are met. The site is on 4,604 acres of public lands in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, 37 miles east of Barstow.
"This marks the fifth solar energy project approved on public lands in the last two weeks," said BLM Director Bob Abbey. "Through these approvals, along with recent approvals for transmission lines and other renewable energy infrastructure, we are continuing to make significant contributions to this nation’s renewable energy generation capabilities.”
The project has undergone extensive environmental review, starting with public scoping in June 2009, followed by a draft environment impact statement (EIS) and full public involvement in April 2010. A final EIS was issued in August 2010.
Salazar noted that BLM significantly altered Tessera Solar’s project proposal to reduce its environmental impact. The project size was reduced from 8,230 acres to 4,604 acres to limit impacts on the desert tortoise and its habitat, reducing the number of tortoises affected from 107 down to 22. The smaller footprint also retains more than 1,600 additional acres of high-value wildlife habitat for desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and other wildlife along the foothills of the Cady Mountains.
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, renewable energy developers whose projects begin construction by the end of 2010 can apply for payments of up to 30 percent of the eligible costs of the project. Tessera Solar is also eligible to apply for significant funding through the Department of Energy’s Recovery Act conditional loan guarantee program.
Calico is one of the projects jointly processed through the BLM and the California Energy Commission (CEC) cooperative model established by an October 12, 2009 agreement between Secretary Salazar and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The agreement directed Interior and State agencies to create an initiative to advance development of environmentally appropriate renewable energy on U.S. lands in California. The CEC’s Siting Committee recommended the project for approval on September 25, 2010, and a hearing before the full Commission has been set for October 28, 2010.